Mythical Monday: The Merry Wanderer of the Night by Mae Clair

I’ve had an affinity for Robin Goodfellow (or “Puck”) ever since reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school. How can you not love a cavalier mischief-maker? Every mythology has a trickster or devilish imp, and when it comes to English folklore and faeries, Robin Goodfellow takes the crown.

Rendering of Puck in field coming upon two human children

Photo courtesy Arthur Rackham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A nature sprite, Puck (as he’s nicknamed by country folk) is a mischievous knave who inhabits woodlands and delights in leading night time travelers astray. He’s also been known to engage in tomfoolery at homesteads, souring milk in the churn, pinching lazy housemaids and blowing out candles to steal a kiss from young maidens. He delights in confusing mortals with pranks and practical jokes but isn’t opposed to lending a hand with minor housework such as grinding corn or churning butter if treated well.

If not in the woods, you can find him lurking about farmsteads and barns. Small gifts such as milk and sweet cream may gain his favor for a time, but at heart he is a free-spirited soul who never tires of watching the foolish antics of mortals. One of his favorite tricks is to replace a sleeping infant in their cradle with an elfling child.

Puck is one of the brownie faeries, also called a hobgoblin, and is able to shapeshift at will. He uses echoes and lights to confuse travelers on their journeys through the woods at night, and is capable of stringing humans along like circus animals with his bewitching piping.

Though it would seem this ill-behaved imp is capable of hurtful pranks, most of his tricks are of a harmless nature. He may cause chaos, such as when he bungled who loves who in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but in the end, matters are usually resolved. Described by Shakespeare as “that merry wanderer of the night,” Puck is endearing and bewildering, a roguish and wayward pixie who is both charmer and scamp.

What do you think? Love the guy or avoid him? Are you a fan of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream